Kyle Dow, Sky Losier, Astra Lund-Phillips, William McDonough, Shay Lynn Sampson and Sarina de Havelyn are among the Saanich area residents who are participating in the 89th session of British Columbia Youth Parliament (BCYP).                                 Wolf Depner/News Staff

Kyle Dow, Sky Losier, Astra Lund-Phillips, William McDonough, Shay Lynn Sampson and Sarina de Havelyn are among the Saanich area residents who are participating in the 89th session of British Columbia Youth Parliament (BCYP). Wolf Depner/News Staff

B.C. Youth Parliament embraces political inclusion

Youth from across the province take part in 89th session at B.C.’s Legislative Assembly

These are truly historic times for politics, and one of the groups helping to produce the future generation of leaders is marking its own bit of history.

As members of the British Columbia Youth Parliament (BCYP) take part in their 89th session in the halls of the Legislative Assembly, they will be doing so against the backdrop of B.C.’s first minority government in 65 years, and the first government ever shaped by the B.C. Greens.

It is also the age where almost every day the public learns about more cases of sexual misconduct by powerful individuals shaping political discourse, be they politicians themselves, influential journalists, or movie moguls with a distinct political agenda.

Sky Losier alludes to this backdrop as he discusses BCYP’s history, whose roots date back to 1924, when it started as the Older Boys Parliament.

That name points to its less-than-inclusive orientation and past that did not change until 1974, when it allowed women to participate – 60 years after British Columbia expanded the franchise for some but not all women, as B.C. denied various minority groups full political rights until the late 1940s.

In short, an organization that contributed to the political education of B.C. youth for decades systemically excluded women for decades after women themselves had actively participated in real-life provincial electoral politics. In fact, by 1974, women had routinely won seats and served in cabinet.

“It’s mind-boggling,” said Losier, a Saanich resident who will be playing the role of premier.

So what caused the change? The government of then-premier David Barrett – B.C.’s first New Democratic premier – had made it clear that the province would not allow the organization continued use of the Legislative Assembly unless it became open to all, said Losier.

This intervention gives this year’s session of the Youth Parliament a special significance, because it means that the number of sessions with female participation (45) will have surpassed the number of sessions without (44).

“It is important to tell the women of the Youth Parliament that they are a valuable part of the organization, and that we couldn’t do the work we do without them,” he said.

Unlike other model parliaments and debate societies, the BCYP has a social-service focus under the motto of ‘Youth Serving Youth’ as its 97 members debate and decide legislation that describes various projects that the non-profit, non-partisan organization supports over the year.

The largest of these is Camp Phoenix, a four-day sleep-away camp for children aged eight to 12, held in different locations.

Astra Lund-Phillips, a Saanich resident who serves as minister of public relations, said this work has made her appreciate the many things others do not take for granted. It also shows the public that her generation is not as apathetic as it might appear, she said.

“They are active, not just bystanders,” she said.

As part of their service, youth parliamentarians must fundraise at least $150 each, and fundraising contributes up to $18,000 towards the budget of the group.

As one might expect, its membership has a high level of political knowledge and engagement, with many studying politics in school and a record of working on various real-life political campaigns.

Losier, however, stresses the non-partisan nature of the organization, and what actually appeals to him is the diverse range of opinions that exist among the parliamentarians. Save for the designated cabinet and shadow cabinet usually comprised of returning parliamentarians, all youth parliamentarians sit as independents.

It is rewarding to meet people who challenge your ideas, said Losier. Lund-Phillips, meanwhile, appreciates the real-life lessons in parliamentary procedures and democratic techniques, something missing from more formal academic settings.

Organizations in their home ridings nominate would-be parliamentarians, who must also submit a personal statement that describes their reasons for participating, their community engagements and potential contributions to BCYP.

BCYP’s list of alumni is a long and impressive one. It includes judges, journalists and not surprisingly, politicians, including Linda Reid, who had sat in the legislature for 26 years between 1991 and 2017, holding various government posts.

Reid, who did not run in the last election, also served as speaker between 2013 and 2017, the third woman in the history of B.C. to do so.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Postmark Group, an Edmonton-based development firm, bought two properties at 6641 and 6643 Sooke Rd. last year, and is reaching out to the community and local groups for feedback before they begin planning the designs for the development. (Photo contributed/Postmark Group)
Waterfront village development eyed for Sooke

Postmark Group development firm bought two properties at 6641 and 6643 Sooke Rd. last year

Friends have identified the man killed in Friday’s shooting in Metchosin as Shane Wilson. (Shane Wilson/Facebook)
West Shore RCMP continue to investigate shooting death in Metchosin

Man killed on Sooke Road Friday night identified by friends

Fire Chief Darren Hughes, right, pulls the old Firemans Park sign off ahead of the parks name change. The new sign for Firefighters Park is coming. (Oak Bay Fire Department Twitter)
Oak Bay changes the name of Fireman’s Park

New sign for Firefighter’s Park on the way

Alphabet Zoo Early Learning Centre wants to relocate from Langford to 3322 Fulton Rd. in Colwood, but has not been approved for a P-6 zoning by Colwood council. Residents who neighbour the property, have expressed concern to the Goldstream Gazette regarding the potential daycare site. Neighbours Ryan Landa and Selene Winchester said the noise of construction has been disruptive to the area, and the property is not suitable for a daycare. (Photo contributed/Ryan Landa)
Proposed West Shore daycare stirs up controversy amongst neighbours

Neighbouring property owners are concerned about traffic, noise that a daycare would bring to the area

Ravi Jain, Why Not Theatre’s founding artistic director, will present a Zoom lecture as part of the University of Victoria’s Orion fine art series on March 8. (Photo: University of Victoria).
Award-winning directors highlight coming University of Victoria lecture series

The March 8 and 18 Zoom events are part of the Orion fine arts lecture series

Const. Nancy Saggar, who has 11 years in policing, offers advice for other women who may pursue both policing and family. (Black Press Media file photo)
Pregnancy prompts sage advice from RCMP officer for women thinking about policing

West Shore constable with 11 years experience heads off on maternity leave

A special committee has been appointed to look at reforming B.C.’s police act and is inviting the public to make submissions until April 30, 2021. (Black Press media file)
Have thoughts on B.C.’s review of the provincial Police Act?

Submissions will be accepted until April 30

Cottonwoods Care Home in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
New COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna care home includes fully vaccinated seniors: Henry

Two staff and 10 residents tested positive at Cottonwoods Care Centre

Excerpts from a conversation between Bria Fisher and the fake truLOCAL job. Fisher had signed a job agreement and was prepared to start work for what she thought was truLOCAL before she learned it was a scam. (Contributed)
B.C. woman warning others after losing $3,000 in job scam

Bria Fisher was hired by what she thought was a Canadian company, only to be out thousands

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provide a regular update on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, March 2, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 cases: 545 Saturday, 532 Sunday, 385 Monday

Focus on Prince Rupert, Lower Mainland large workplaces

Rising accident rates and payout costs have contributed to billion-dollar deficits at ICBC. (Comox Valley Record)
B.C. appealing decision keeping ICBC injury cases in court

David Eby vows to ‘clip wings’ of personal injury lawyers

Hannah Ankenmann, who works with k’awat’si Economic Development Corporation, winces as she received her first shot of the Pfizer vaccine administered by a Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Family Health nurse. (Zoe Ducklow photo)
Vancouver Island’s small remote towns to get community-wide vaccine clinics

Island Health to take a wholesale approach to immunization, rather than age-based appointments

Anyone with information is asked to call Nanaimo RCMP at 250-754-2345 or contact Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800-222-8477 or submitting a tip online at www.nanaimocrimestoppers.com.
21-year-old motorbike rider dies after crash with ATV on Nanaimo back road

Incident happened Sunday afternoon near Boomerang Lake

Most Read